Transforming Education Systems and Developing Personalized Learning Journeys at Scale.

We need to radically shift our approach to education research, policy, and practice to get on track to 2030.

The Global Education and Research: Unleashing Potential (GEAR:UP) initiative aims to support research and programs to transform education systems. We operationalize this strategy by creating personalized learning journeys at scale to improve learning quality and ultimately work towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Despite rising school enrollment, global learning levels are stagnant. In 2023, we find ourselves at the halfway mark towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 of Quality Education. Yet, the most recent Sustainable Development Goals Report from July 2023 predicts that, unless something changes, 300 million students globally will lack basic numeracy and literacy skills by 2030.

Expansions in enrollment, which usually benefit the most marginalized populations, have had the unfortunate side-effect that students in classrooms are increasingly diverse in terms of learning level. This is complicated by the fact that value for money in schools has decreased sharply. Test scores remain stagnant even as per-student expenditures are on the rise.

Despite rising expenditures on education, the SDG 2023 Report estimates that there is still a $97 billion funding gap for meeting SDG 4. Without a comprehensive and transformative intervention, achieving SDG 4 appears increasingly elusive.

Research Questions 

  • Education at its most impactful, has always been a highly personalized journey. How can we shift the focus from producing students who are adept at standardized tests to cultivating skills that create more productive and socially impactful individuals?
  • Researchers and policymakers increasingly recognize that a person's learning journey requires a more comprehensive systems approach. The shift from viewing education issues discretely to viewing education as a collective problem involves a full-spectrum view across time and space, necessitating collaboration across various types of people and actors. How can we more effectively identify frictions stakeholders face that prevent them from effectively educating children?
  • The systems approach can be a game changer in implementing personalized learning journeys. However, current landscape of data and tools available prevent actors from adopting a systems approach. How can we use data science, big data, and advancements in AI to transform education systems and deliver equitable education for each child?

Faculty Co-Chairs

Asim Khwaja headshot

Asim Khwaja

Faculty Director, CID
Sumitomo-Foundation Professor of International Finance and Development
Harvard Kennedy School

Michela Carlana headshot

Michela Carlana

Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School

Emiliana Vegas

Emiliana Vegas

Professor of Practice
Harvard Graduate School of Education

GEAR:UP Research Initiatives


The Colombia Education Policy Research program works directly with education policy makers and leaders in Colombia to innovate and test the most promising education initiatives throughout the country.


Learning and Educational Achievement in Pakistan Schools (LEAPS) is the largest body of education research in Pakistan and one of the largest in any low-income country.

Featured Content


Education markets and systems in low- and middle-income countries


Education and Inequality: Online Tutoring to Reduce the Achievement Gap


CID Faculty Spotlight: Emiliana Vegas on What It Takes to Change Education


CID Development Perspectives: Education Markets and Systems


FUNCAS Prize SAEe 2023, Keynote Lecture by Professor Michela Carlana